First published on 18 Jan 2012. Updated on 18 Jan 2012.
I've been eating too many bad things. Do I need to detox?
'Everything in moderation’, they say… including moderation. If you have overloaded your body with rich foods and alcohol, it may be a good idea to gently apply the brakes. This way, you’ll feel revived and rejuvenated.
What will a detox involve?
The basic idea is to cleanse the body by eating foods that are as close to their raw, natural state as possible and avoid ‘stressors’ such as caffeine, alcohol and processed, ready-made foods. But detox diets are not a quick fix. According to nutritionist Lucy-Ann Prideaux, who runs Simply Nutrition, restrictive detox diets, such as those that involve taking in nothing but water and fruit or veg juices for a few days or as much as two weeks, are neither pleasant nor safe. "The amount of time needed to 'detox' will entirely depend on the person and their state of health," she says.
How do I detox sensibly?
"Fasting, or severely restricting what you eat, limits your intake of energy and important nutrients needed for health," says Sue Baic of the British Dietetic Association. "But it does make sense to avoid too much caffeine, alcohol and foods high in fat, sugar and salt. Cutting out alcohol is okay", she adds, "but limiting yourself to one or two units, once or twice a week is fine, and some principles of detoxing, such as increasing your fruit and vegetable intake and drinking plenty of water, can also be highly beneficial. If you want to maintain optimal health, the best approach is a balanced diet, with at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, some daily wholegrain cereals, lean meat, fish and alternatives, and low-fat dairy products. The liver is your internal detox organ and the body will naturally cleanse itself given the chance".
Will drinking juices help?
Substituting caffeinated drinks for fresh juices is great. But no matter how many you drink, they will still only count for one portion of your daily fruit and vegetable intake. That’s because juiced fruit and veg don’t have the same properties as those in whole form – for instance, juicing removes the fibre, which assists the passage of waste through the gut. A good compromise is smoothies made with real fruit, as they count for more portions – about one per banana, mango or pair of kiwis.
Should I cut out wheat and dairy?
Possible reasons for eliminating wheat and dairy are a suspected intolerance – bloating or sluggishness may be indications – or a medical condition such as celiac disease. Having said that, you may want to use this ‘detox’ period to explore different types of ‘substitute’ foods that will make your diet more varied, providing you with a wider range of nutrients. Always focus on what you can have rather than what you can’t. As dairy substitutes, you could try almond, soya or rice milk; soya, goat’s or sheep’s milk yoghurts, as well as goat or sheep’s cheese. For wheat, try spelt pasta, German ‘pumpernickel’ rye bread, oatcakes, rice cakes, pearl barley in soups or tabbouleh-style salad dishes.
Can I eat meat?
There’s no need to exclude meat. But opting for lean proteins such as chicken, fish, tofu and pulses will help give you a varied diet. And, if you can afford it, choose organic where possible – it’s more likely to have been raised without drugs or chemicals.
Are there any side effects of a detox diet?
You won’t get dog breath or volcanic acne if you detox sensibly, step by step. If you get tired, you may not be taking in enough calories. Don’t drastically reduce the amount you eat. You will detox and lose weight at a manageable rate – and keep it off – simply by eating a balanced diet, sticking to moderate portion sizes and staying active. If you’re used to lots of caffeine, you may get headaches and other withdrawal symptoms. To avoid this, cut down gradually so your body can adjust.
Should I exercise too?
Absolutely. General physical activity (for example, walking whenever you can or taking the stairs) and regular exercise (increasing your heart rate by doing some form of sport three to five times a week) are essential for the proper functioning of the body. But, again, build activity levels gradually rather than set yourself unrealistic goals. Many yoga postures are thought to cleanse and tone the internal organs, while the practice’s breathing and meditation techniques will help calm your mind, ‘de-cluttering’ it of unhelpful thoughts. After all, don’t we need all the help we can get this time of year?
Detox Yourself by Jane Scrivner
Body Foods for Life by Jane Clarke
Healing Foods for Dummies by Molly Siple
Yoga for You by Tara Fraser